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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Granger’s 89th Annual Academy Awards Predictions

By Susan Granger

Special to WestportNow

Every film year acts as a mirror and reflects the tenor of the times. When the Oscars began in 1929 to celebrate the motion picture industry, the winner was William Wellman’s anti-war “Wings.”

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The subsequent Depression years celebrated character studies like “Grand Hotel,” “The Great Ziegfeld” and “Rebecca.” After the turmoil of Kennedy’s assassination, the Academy chose lighthearted fare like “Tom Jones,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Oliver!” And in 2000, the last time a Republican won the White House, after losing the popular vote, “Gladiator” won the Oscar.

Socio-politics inevitably influence the choices of the almost-7,000 Academy voters and, this year, the Academy inducted 683 new members. How they’ll vote is an unknown factor.

Back when studios had people under contract, they voted in “blocs” for the films of their home studio. As Joan Crawford once said, “You’d have to be an idiot to vote against the studio that holds your contract and produces your pictures.” But the studio system no longer exists.

After last year’s #Oscarsowhite protest, there was jubilation that 20 people of color were nominated this year. Seven actors of color are vying for top honors — and in other categories as well. Bradford Young (“Arrival”) is the first African-American cinematographer to be nominated, and Joi McMillon (“Moonlight”) is the first African-American woman editor to be nominated.

The impact of social media cannot be underestimated, since every casual remark and facial expression is open to interpretation. That puts added pressure, since voters are supposed to reward the best work, not to meet quotas. Yet, even scandal-tainted Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”) seems to have been forgiven.

Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” seems to be the favorite but there are pitfalls —- and Awards strategists are aware of them, knowing clients like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling will double their fees if they pocket an Oscar. So they’re working to define the film’s basic message: this movie matters because it celebrates artists, their creativity, their hopes and dreams.

But the fact remains: after Donald Trump’s election, the atmosphere has grown more charged and partisan. So will voters choose a light, escapist romp in serious times?

Alphabetically, the nine BEST PICTURE nominees:

ARRIVAL: a sci-fi time-travel thriller about a linguist who communicates with aliens

FENCES: the adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about race relations

HACKSAW RIDGE: the story of a WW II pacifist who won the Medal of Honor

HELL OR HIGH WATER: the saga of West Texas bank robbers that the question: when a bank steal from you, is it OK to rob them to save your family farm?

HIDDEN FIGURES: celebrating the contribution of African-American women working at NASA

LA LA LAND: a bittersweet nod to Hollywood musicals as star-crossed lovers follow their dreams

LION: the true story of a displaced Indian lad who is adopted by Australians and traces his roots

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA: a gut-wrenching drama about a family tragedy and its consequences

MOONLIGHT: the three-part story of a young man exploring his racial and sexual identity

MY PREDICTION: “La La Land”

Nominated for BEST ACTRESS: Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”), Ruth Negga (“Loving”), Natalie Portman (“Jackie”), Emma Stone (“La La Land”) and Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”), garnering her 20th nomination.

Natalie Portman was the presumptive favorite but Emma Stone’s Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award tips the scale toward victory, although France’s Isabelle Huppert remains a strong threat.

MY PREDICTION: Emma Stone

Nominated for BEST ACTOR: Casey Affleck (“Manchester By the Sea”), Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”), Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”), Denzel Washington (“Fences”).

While Casey Affleck copped critics’ kudos, Denzel Washington won the SAG award, making this category far more competitive, particularly since Viggo Mortensen’s character’s motto — “Power to the people, stick it to the man!” — resonates.

MY PREDICTION: Denzel Washington

Nominated for BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Viola Davis (“Fences”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”), Nicole Kidman (“Lion”), Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”), Michelle Williams (“Manchester By the Sea”).

It’s not really accurate to classify Viola Davis’ role as supporting since she co-starred but her placement in this category assures her a win.

MY PREDICTION: Viola Davis

Nominated for BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”), Jeff Bridges (“hell or High Water”), Lucas Hedges (“Manchester By the Sea”), Dev Patel (“Lion”), Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals”).

MY PREDICTION: Mahershala Ali, who eloquently spoke about being a Muslim and not persecuting those who are different — when he won the SAG Award.

Nominees for BEST DIRECTOR: Denis Villenueve (“Arrival”), Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”), Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester By the Sea”), Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”).

MY PREDICTION: Damien Chazelle

Nominees for BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lion,” “Moonlight.”

MY PREDICTION: “Moonlight”

Nominees for BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: “hell or High Water,” “La La Land,” “The Lobster,” “Manchester By the Sea,” “20th Century Women.”

MY PREDICTION: “Manchester By the Sea”

Nominees for BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: “Finding Dory,” “Moana,” “My Life as a Zucchini,”“The Red Turtle,” “Zootopia.”

MY PREDICTION: “Zootopia,” examining implicit bias and discrimination in an animal kingdom.

Nominees for BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “A Man Called Ove: (Sweden), “Land of Mine” (Denmark), “The Salesman” (Iran), “Tanna” (Australia), “Toni Erdmann” (Germany).

While “Toni Erdmann” garnered praise, it’s 2 hours, 42 minutes long, and its first hour tests the viewer’s patience. What may tip the scale is that Oscar-winning Iranian director Ashgar Farhadi (“A Separation”) has declared that the uncertainty surrounding his ability to travel to the United States was “in no way acceptable.” A vote for Farhadi may show solidarity with all immigrants, and Academy voters could take that into consideration.

MY PREDICTION: “The Salesman”

Nominees for BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “Fire at Sea,” “I Am Not Your Negro,” “Life, Animated,” “OJ: Made in America,” “13th.”

This is one of the most contentious categories. “O.J.: Made in America” originally screened, in its seven-hour, 47-minutes, entirety at Sundance and played one week in May at theaters in New York and Los Angeles. One of its five ‘chapters’ then aired on ABC-TV, then all five ran on ESPN, before being released as a DVD. So, is it a TV documentary or a film? It was financed by a TV network and won many TV awards.

MY PREDICTION: “O.J.: Made in America”

Nominees for BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Audition” (“La La Land”), “City of Stars” (“La La Land”), “How Far I’ll Go” (“Moana”), “Can’t Stop the Feeling” (“Trolls”), “Empty Chair” (“Jim: The James Foley Story”).

MY PREDICTION: “City of Stars”

Nominees for BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: “Jackie,” “La La Land,’ “Lion,” “Moonlight,” “Passengers” — for which Thomas Newman nabbed his 14th nomination, bringing a record total of 90 for any family; the Newmans include Alfred, Lionel, Emil, Thomas, David and Randy.

MY PREDICTION: “La La Land”

Nominees for BEST FILM EDITING: “Arrival,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “hell or High Water,” “La La Land,” “Moonlight.” Both “Arrival” and “La La Land” won ACE Awards from their Guild.

MY PREDICTION: “La La Land”

Nominees for BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Arrival,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Moonlight,” “Silence.”

MY PREDICTION: “La La Land”

Nominees for BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: “Arrival,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Hail, Caesar!,” “La La Land,” “Passengers.”

MY PREDICTION: “La La Land”

Nominees for BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: “Deepwater Horizon,” “Doctor Strange,” “The Jungle Book,” “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

MY PREDICTION: “The Jungle Book”

Nominees for BEST COSTUME DESIGN: “Allied,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Florence Foster Jenkins,” “Jackie,” “La La Land.”

MY PREDICTION: “La La Land”

Nominees for BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: “A Man Called Ove,” “Star Trek Beyond,” “Suicide Squad.”

MY PREDICTION: “Star Trek Beyond”

Nominees for BEST SOUND EDITING: “Arrival,” “Deepwater Horizon,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “La La Land,” “Sully.” Remember, pictures frame the story but it’s the sound that makes it seem real.

MY PREDICTION: “Hacksaw Ridge”

Nominees for BEST SOUND MIXING: “Arrival,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “La La Land,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.”

MY PREDICTION: “La La Land”

Nominees for BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: “4.1 Miles,” ”Extremis,” ”Joe’s Violin,” “Watani: My Homeland,” “The White Helmets.”

MY PREDICTION: “Joe’s Violin”

Nominees for BEST ANIMATED SHORT: “Blind Vaysha,” “Borrowed Time,” “Pear Cider and Cigarette,” “Pearl,” “Piper.”

MY PREDICTION: “Piper”

Nominees for BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: “Ennemis Interierurs,” “La Femme et le TGV,” “Silent Nights,” “Sing,” “Timecode.”

MY PREDICTION: “Ennemis Interierus.”


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(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

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Posted 02/22/17 at 05:19 PM  Permalink



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